The Indian juggernaut will be up against familiar foes New Zealand in the first ODI World Cup semifinal, tomorrow at 2pm at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The 2019 Manchester heartbreak will still be fresh in the minds of Team India and its fans. The Kiwis had again denied India in the ICC World Test Championship final in 2021.
With nine wins in a row, India are the favourites, but the pressure will be on the hosts, who have not won an ICC tournament since 2013.
Bat or bowl first?
Toss will be crucial tomorrow for the day-night match at the Wankhede. Teams batting second at this venue have lost early wickets in clusters under lights with the new ball moving dangerously in the air and off the deck. Both India and New Zealand have bowlers who can inflict severe damage with the new ball.
Having said that, the high chances of dew will make it easier to bat after the initial spell. A lot will depend on the approach of Indian openers – Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. The Mumbaikar has so far made 503 runs and will hope for a continuation, but Gill with a tally of 270 runs from seven matches would like to own the stage with a blistering effort against the Kiwis.
Virat Kohli is now the top run-getter in the tournament with 593 runs, and the landmark of 50 ODI hundreds is waiting to be reached. Kohli would also like to break the semifinal jinx after getting dismissed for one in the 2019 and 2015 edition.
India will also be delighted to see their middle-order batters K.L. Rahul and Shreyas Iyer hitting top form ahead of the semis though the management will welcome some runs from Suryakumar Yadav.
New Zealand, too, have enough depth and experience to counter the marauding India bowlers.
The young Rachin Ravindra (565 runs) is the find of the tournament, but Devon Conway is short of big scores his unbeaten 152 against England in the tournament opener was the only time he scored fifty or above.
Captain Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell are the middle-order lynchpins but New Zealand do not match India's firepower on paper, but they certainly have the ability to dig deep.
Battle of the bowlers
Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav have been as lethal as they ever have been but the limelight, to a large extent, has been stolen by Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj who have been unplayable when on song.
In this World Cup, no other bowling attack has produced a masterclass in bowling on flat wickets than India's.
But that said, writing off Kiwis' pace troika of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner will be naive.
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They have enough experience and skill to make an impact even on a shirtfront, and will also hope to prey on any pressure India face in front of the home crowd.
So, it all boils down to who will manage the pressure moments better and we might just have a cracker.
India vs New Zealand semifinal weather forecast
As per AccuWeather, the weather is expected to be sunny, with a minimum temperature of 26 degrees Celsius and a maximum temperature of 34 degrees Celsius. There is no threat of rain. Humidity in the air is expected to be 44 per cent, and the wind speed 14 km per hour.
India vs New Zealand semifinal pitch report
The pitch at the Wankhede Stadium is generally balanced, with something in it for the bowlers and batters alike. The average first innings total in the last 10 matches has been 318. Smaller boundaries may play a role, making it a high scoring encounter. But, while chasing under lights, the batters will have to see off the initial spell.
India vs New Zealand head-to-head
In ODIs, India and New Zealand have faced each other 117 times, with the former winning 59 of them and the Kiwis 50.
They have met nine times in ODI World Cups, with New Zealand winning five.
The two sides last faced each other in October during the league stage of the World Cup, with India winning by four wickets.
Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer (wk), KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan (wk), Prasidh Krishna, Suryakumar Yadav.
Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham (wk), Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips (wk), Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Will Young.
(With PTI inputs)